As Georgia business communities continue to diversify, the UGA Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is expanding its service to include programs in foreign languages.
SBDC consultant and Philippine-born Benny StaRomana is a key component to moving that agenda along. He brought his career in global sales and marketing to the United States 25 years ago, and since then has been both personally and professionally engaged with the Asian communities in Georgia.
This summer, StaRomana was recognized as one of the 25 most influential Asian-Americans in Georgia by the Georgia Asian American Times, a biweekly newspaper based in Suwanee, Ga.
“Benny is well known in the community and very popular with his clients,” said Allan Adams, the UGA SBDC state director. “So, his visibility and his activities in the community led to his recent recognition.”
During the pandemic, the UGA SBDC organized multi-lingual webinars in Mandarin, Korean and Vietnamese, in addition to English, helping Asian-American business owners apply for federal assistance. More than 323 Pan Asian business owners attended the webinars.
“Afterwards, whoever attended those sessions, we would contact them and offer them our services,” StaRomana said.
He also worked with the Philippine American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia to help Filipinos like himself start businesses in Georgia. He has helped the chamber with its strategy and development since 2019.
More than 450,000 Asians live in Georgia — about 375,000 of them in metro Atlanta according to 2020 U.S. census data.
Since 2000, UGA SBDC consultants have helped more than 7,500 established Asian-owned businesses. SBDC consultants have helped another 237 Asian clients launch new businesses since 2011.
The UGA SBDC plans to continue offering multi-lingual opportunities and increase collaboration with Asian business and community organizations. StaRomana will be part of those efforts, tapping into his global work experience and years as owner of a private consulting business. (SantaRomana & Associates LLC went on to win the grand prize in the 2011 Gwinnett County Amazing Entrepreneur competition.)
Meanwhile, he’ll dedicate some of his own time by volunteering with different local organizations, such as the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, Gwinnet Technical College and the Gwinnett County Entrepreneur Center.
“A big part of [the award] is the fact that I’m a business consultant for the SBDC,” StaRomana said. “That puts me in a prime position to be helping people. It’s both a responsibility and a privilege to be doing that.”
Émilie Gille Public Relations Coordinator
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Benny StaRomana SBDC Business Consultant